High School Sports

Noah Schwab excels in net for Little Lions lacrosse team

State College's Noah Schwab defends the net during the game against Palmyra on Thursday, April 7, 2016.
State College's Noah Schwab defends the net during the game against Palmyra on Thursday, April 7, 2016. adrey@centredaily.com

It wasn’t Noah Schwab’s choice to play goalie.

His older brothers decided for him.

“They always needed someone to shoot on in the backyard and since I was the younger brother, they just threw me in the goal,” Schwab said.

Schwab immediately took a liking to the position. About 10 years later, he’s still in net and still enjoys it despite the physical and mental challenges.

Schwab has excelled at State College, working to improve each year and surpassing the 500-save mark for his career.

“It seems like he’s been with us forever,” State College coach Jeff King said.

Schwab’s lacrosse career started in Utah.

His family moved around the country due to his mother’s service in the military — Schwab was born in Ohio and has lived in five states — and the Schwab brothers wanted to play lacrosse like their cousins did.

Schwab was around four years old when he started playing. He first played goalie in the backyard when his family was living in Georgia. He was in first or second grade at the time, and his older brothers, Luke and Sam, would fire tennis balls at him so he didn’t need any gear.

Kids from the neighborhood often played too as the sport was more developed in Georgia.

It’s where Schwab learned the fundamentals before moving to State College.

“When we first moved here, there was actually no lacrosse,” said Schwab, whose younger brother, Joe, is on the State College JV team. “So then in 2007, that first year that we lived here, we actually helped start the local youth program.”

His education as a goalie continued at Penn State games.

Schwab would arrive an hour early to watch Nittany Lions goalie Drew Adams and later Austin Kaut warm up. He’d keep an eye their movements and habits, noting how Kaut stepped to shots at a 45-degree angle and how both kept their hands closer together than most goalies. He tried to implement what he saw into his game, experimenting at practices and keeping what worked for him.

At State College, Schwab became the starter during his freshman season.

His older brothers, who played for the Little Lions, prepared him well.

They always needed someone to shoot on in the backyard and since I was the younger brother, they just threw me in the goal.

State College lacrosse goalie Noah Schwab

“I’m a little young for my grade, so I was like 13, 14 years old at the time, playing with 17 and 18-year-olds so that was a little bit intimidating,” Schwab said. “But (I was) not really that nervous because I saw the shots in my backyard.”

Schwab has been State College’s goalie since his first start and currently has 563 career saves.

This year, he’s not only kept his stats up, but also has played with an understanding of opposing teams’ tendencies and directed his teammates on defense.

“He’s our voice when he’s on the field,” King said. “He’s the quarterback of the defense. He’s kind of directing traffic in there, telling guys where they should be lined up.”

He’s been able to put bad games behind him to maintain that starting spot.

Schwab said he learned to deal with that failure better as a junior.

That’s when he started playing football.

He was a kicker, another position that requires a short memory, and the experience helped put lacrosse into perspective.

“I used to really get just way too focused into the game and that just killed me because it was everything,” Schwab said. “And if I would have a bad game, one thing would lead to another and I just wouldn’t be playing well.

“But just realizing there’s more to life than just lacrosse, that’s allowed me to stay cool and composed.”

Blue-collar recognition

Stan Martin and Schwab were thinking about how to recognize teammates whose contributions don’t show up in the stat book this season.

They came up with the “Hard Worker of the Game” award.

They ordered a hard hat on Amazon and spray painted it maroon. The helmet features an “S” on the front and “Hard Worker of the Game” on the back.

The hard hat can go to a player who’s been working hard at practice, or to a player who got crucial ground balls or made key hustle plays in a game.

Martin and Schwab, the team captains, will talk about it and make a decision after some games. They’ll create a Twitter poll to select the winner for others games in an effort to promote attendance at a home game.

“It’s kind of a big deal to get that,” Martin said.

With construction going on at the school, they settled on a hard hat to embody the meaning of the award.

“You think of a construction worker as someone who, they aren’t really recognized as kind of like a big public figure,” Martin said. “But they work their tails off every day and without them, we wouldn’t have anything that we have.”

Martin made a similar connection with his usually overlooked teammates’ significance to the Little Lions.

“Those are the kids who really make a team because you don’t see them every day, but those are the kids that help you get better in practice,” Martin said.

Ryne Gery: 814-231-4679, @rgery